Darien boys tennis team nets runner-up finish in State to cap great spring

Darien boys’ tennis was the team runner-up at this year’s Class L State Tournament, behind team champion Daniel Hand. It’s the highest finish for the Wave since 2015, when Darien was runner-up to New Canaan.

Daniel Hand finished the year with an undefeated regular season, a conference championship and a state championship.

“Hand beat us by a couple of points, but this is the first time we got silver in a long time,” Coach Hugh Underhill said. “The boys played well, and we were very, very close.”

Team co-captain and senior Bobby Neuner led the Wave, making it to the finals before finishing the tournament as the runner up in the singles draw.

Neuner, who was seeded second in the tournament, defeated No. 3 seed Justin Pace of Daniel Hand in the semifinals in three sets, before losing in the finals to No. 1 seed Andrew Forchetti from Notre Dame-West Haven, 6-4, 7-5.

Neuner had reached the finals in the singles draw as a freshman in 2015, before winning the championship in 2016 and losing in the quarterfinals to Pace in 2017.

According to Underhill, that dominance was recognized and appreciated by the fans at the tournament.

“The thing about Bobby is – he was playing in the finals for states, and everyone was cheering for him, all these people who don’t even know him,” Underhill said. “He’s been around playing number one for four years, he’s such a great guy and great competitor. I’ve never seen anybody who was supported more than Bobby for the finals. All these teams who only knew Bobby through his reputation were up there, rooting for him. It was very special.”

In other singles action, Darien’s Ian Wise, who was unseeded in the tournament, lost to Daniel Hand’s Pace in the second round 6-1, 6-0. Seeded 11th, Darien’s Nick Derby made it to the third round of the tournament before losing to Daniel Hand’s Joshua Israel 6-0, 6-2, while Ethan Zhang lost in the second round to Forchetti 6-0, 6-0.

At doubles, co-captain Neil Ghandi and Romano DeCaprio, seeded second in the tournament, made it to the quarterfinals before being knocked out by Fairfield Ludlowe’s Sam Slobin and Oliver Kleinberg in three sets, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3.

Seeded 13th, Christopher Calderwood and Tyler Cramer lost in the third round to No. 4 seed Robert Israel and Noah Gulla from Daniel Hand 6-4, 7-5. Also advancing to the third round were Alexander de Castro and Sergei Doroshin, who lost to No. 3 seed Luke Crowley and Ben Graham of New Canaan 6-4, 6-3.

“All our doubles teams, they were hanging in there,” Underhill said. “They all went a couple rounds.”

Darien finished 14-4 on the regular season, before losing to Staples in the FCIAC tournament semifinals 4-2. Neuner also went on to play in the state Open singles draw, before losing in the semifinals on Tuesday to Andrew Ilie of Trumbull in three sets, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

“We really had a true team — we had great leadership, and the boys had a lot of fun. I think it was a very successful year,” Underhill said. “The boys really became a tight knit band of brothers.”

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Bobby Neuner returns a shot during the CIAC State Open tournament this week.

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